SLANG Worldwide is bringing its suite of cannabis brands to Missouri and Virginia, two newly legalized medical cannabis markets that offer a lot of promise to the business. In the same stroke, SLANG is expanding its presence in Michigan’s retail sector.
This all came about through SLANG’s new strategic partnership with Merida Capital Holdings, a private equity firm that touts a deep portfolio—both plant-touching and ancillary. For SLANG, the move allows the business to place its proprietary brands (O.pen, Bakked, District, Pressies, Lunchbox Alchemy and Firefly) in front of new patient and customer bases.
As CEO Chris Driessen said, "Integrating our brands in emerging markets through strategic partnership is core to our growth strategy.” Here, we caught up with Driessen to learn more about the partnership and about the inherent attraction of newly legal markets in the U.S.
Eric Sandy: In terms of Missouri and Virginia, how do you view the opportunities in these two emerging markets
Chris Driessen: As emerging markets, these are markets where you work with a strategic partner—in this case, Merida and their affiliates—to bring products to market. It’s similar to what we’ve done in Florida with Trulieve or Michigan with Gage. This fits that model perfectly. What’s really interesting about both of these states, from my point of view—one, Missouri’s regulations, the way they’re rolling out the program, it’s a pretty wide open market. It’s a state with a good population. Certainly on their southern border with Oklahoma, there’s massive access for patients there. So, as far as the model itself, the way they’ve drawn up the program bodes very well for a business like ours. And then you turn to Virginia, which is a little different—more limited, a little more restricted, but with all the recent regulation with what the governor is trying to do there, it could come on really quick. Obviously, we want to skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s at. So, two separate markets, but we’re excited about both for two different reasons.
ES: As you step into a new market like these two states, what are some of the keys to bringing your brand to a marketplace with patients or even consumers who may not yet be familiar with your brand?
CD: First and foremost, you always want to align yourself someone that has a similar vision and a similar culture, that has the infrastructure, the leadership, the capital to be able to execute on the plan. And certainly we have that with Merida. Whenever we enter a new market—we’re big data guys, so we always want to know all of the analytical data that we can have around the population, the consumption habits, the preferences and products. That’s a little tricky in some of these newer markets, because the data just doesn’t exist. Fortunately for SLANG, these two markets made No. 15 and 16 for us. That’s 14 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. So, we’ve got a really large sample size of what people like, whether that’s edibles, concentrates, vape, flower, pills, we really